Since the group exhibition "Die verlassenen Schuhe" (The Abandoned Shoes) at the Rheinischen Landesmuseum Bonn in 1993, displaying her works with artists such as Günther Uecker, C. O. Paeffgen and Jürgen Klauke including a catalogue publication, the Cologne artist Gisela Berk has been working solely on her Portraits of the Soul.
With her intricately ornamental object collages portraying the shoe as a fetish symbol, she explored and centralized female and male elements onto materials upon the background of Eros. In her current sculptures, the soul itself bears central significance in Berk’s world of perception.
Source materials of her subject are nettle, plaster and wire, which she transforms to create an embodiment of moments of the soul. Once captured by a theme, she is compelled out of a strong inner impulse and a sense of necessity to seek within the dark realms of the subconscious. In conceding to this compulsion, she has created her sculptures as a scene of work in progress - out of a purely objective perspective.
Apparently lost moments of human existence are created out of “nothing”, formed as a quasi frozen movement, brought back to life. The surface of all the sculptures is held in white, accentuating the color’s significance as a symbol for the origin of life.
To the art recipient, Gisela Berk’s figures appear to have escaped from the shadow world of Hades and now stand as mummy-like somnambulists inquiringly confronting him.
Mythical titles of her work such as Phoenix and Hermes refer to the archetypes of the soul. By depicting the mythical bird during its eclosion and providing Hermes, messenger of the gods, with a strangely packed message, the artist brings the timelessness of the great soul into the present in a nutshell and sensitively points to the loss of sensual perception in the post modern world.
In order to fully portray the physical manifestations stemming from the world that occupies the space between life and death, a large spacious room is required that permits variable perspectives and perception possibilities, as well as crepuscular light or the like in artificial light. Gisela Berk’s intention through this extra ambience is to relay the sculptures a sense of rising from the shadows and life seemingly being revived in them.
Atmospheric sampled tones of space, the source of which the artist keeps in the dark, form a sound installation that follows a dramaturgical narrative curve, adding an additional tension and dimension to the depth of the space within which the soul resides.
The art of acting pervades Gisela Berk’s work. The art of acting, captures the infinite states of the soul only momentarily, thus rendering them mortal. In sculpture, however, she has found a means to manifest the aural bodies of reduced states of the soul as haptic snapshots, infinitely frozen in time.